A familiar sight in Albufeira - Josphat Menjo taking victory No. 4 (© Marcelino Almeida)
- Fionnuala Britton, Aniko Kalovics and Gulnara Samitova-Galkina - and surprising presences marked the 35th Almond Blossom Cross Country International Race - an IAAF Cross Country Permit meeting – on Sunday in Albufeira, an event which also hosted the Portuguese national Cross Country Championships.
Menjo wins fourth title in five years
In the men’s race the first sensation came early, as by the middle of the race, Yousef el Kalai, the 2010 and 2011 Portuguese champion, dropped well off the pace. It was the same for Ukrainian Sergey Lebed, the former European Cross Country champion, who was unable to keep the strong pace of the leading group - Kenyans Kiprono Menjo and Cybrian Koyuy, Ethiopian Mohamed Burka (personal best of 28:41 for 10km from December in Madrid) and Portuguese Manuel Damião and Rui Teixeira.
On the last lap, Menjo took the lead for good to cross the line four seconds ahead of Ethiopian Burka to take his fourth victory in the Algarve. He showed his appreciation to the fans saying, “This course is very pleasant for me.”
In spring-like conditions with temperatures reaching 18º C., the Portuguese Manuel Damião took the last step of the podium and along with it the national title. He is now the reigning national road race and Cross Country champion.
Lebed eventually finished a distant eighth.
Unknown Jepkoech takes women’s race
The women’s race was defined early on. By the midway point, unknown Kenyan Gorreti Jepkoech (4:29.3 1500m personal best from 2011) took the lead and went on a solitary run eventually finishing 24 seconds ahead of Latvia’s Jelena Prokopchuka who moved into second place over the last lap. She overtook Dulce Félix who won her third national title in a row.
Behind her, rounding out of the podium, was another Kenyan Eunice Jepkorir, the 2008 Olympic silver medallist and 2007 World bronze medallist in the 3000m Steeplechase. She prevailed over Anália Rosa, a former Portuguese national champion, and Carla Salomé Rocha, the Portuguese under 23 national champion.
António Manuel Fernandes for the IAAF
Almond Blossom Cross Country (Algarve)
Leading Results –
Men (12 km)
1. Kiprono Menjo (KEN) 35.40
2. Mohamed Burka (ETH) 35.44
3. Manuel Damião (POR) 35.58
4. Rui Teixeira (POR) 36.01
5. Cybrian Koyuy (KEN) 36.03
6. José Rocha (POR) 36.12
7. Hermano Ferreira (POR) 36.19
8. Sergey Lebed (UKR) 36.31
9. Licínio Pimentel (POR) 36.31
10. Fernando Silva (POR) 36.46
Women (8 km)
1. Gorreti Jepkoech (KEN) 26.05
2. Jelena Prokopchuka (LAT) 26.29
3. Dulce Félix (POR) 26.33
4. Eunice Jepkorir (KEN) 26.57
5. Anália Rosa (POR) 26.59
6. Salomé Rocha (POR) 27.01
7. Sophie Duarte (FRA) 27.11
8. Ana Dias (POR) 27.16
9. Leonor Carneiro (POR) 27.21
10. Inês Monteiro (POR) 27.41